Photo: Bill O'Leary/ The Washington Post

Photo: Bill O'Leary/ The Washington Post

the Washington post

"What I really wanted to articulate is the strength of our continuity." 

There was a time in her life when Vaddey Ratner chose silence. By age 11, the reign of the Khmer Rouge had reduced her world to hunger, fear and loss. She wanted to speak of none of it. Ratner was a living skeleton, laboring in the rice fields of Cambodia while death swallowed her family, her country and her spirit...

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 Photo: Kristina Sherk

Photo: Kristina Sherk

national public radio

"I actually want to tell a story about the power of storytelling to transcend suffering. Because it was the stories that saved me."

When she was just 5 years old, Vaddey Ratner's comfortable and protected life as the child of an aristocratic Cambodian family came to an abrupt end, as Khmer Rouge soldiers entered the capital, Phnom Penh. They banged on the gates of the family compound and ordered them to leave...

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 Left photo: Jack Gruber/ USA Today

Left photo: Jack Gruber/ USA Today

USA TODaY

"What a life. And now, what a book."

Debut novelist Vaddey Ratner is a study in contrasts.

Tiny and exquisite like the Cambodian princess she is, Ratner also possesses the friendliness of a Midwesterner who spent her high school years in St. Paul. A summa cum laude Ivy League graduate married to her college sweetheart, she lives with her husband and daughter, 12, in this leafy suburb of Washington, D.C., complete with her daughter's fairy-tale treehouse out back.

Ratner's own childhood, however, was very different — a nightmare spent in the killing fields of Cambodia...

"This is the one story I had to write," says Ratner...

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 Photo: Vaddey Ratner

Photo: Vaddey Ratner

Pittsburgh post-gazette

How do you write a novel about a time of terror -- a story crowded with worst nightmares come to life -- and make it something readers wants to keep coming back to and not set down in despair? How do you fill that story with love and light in a world that, on its face, looks like unbroken darkness?

Vaddey Ratner has done exactly that with her stunning debut novel, "In the Shadow of the Banyan," a beautiful, heartbreaking work that closely parallels her own experience as a child growing up in Cambodia when the Communist Khmer Rouge party came to power in 1975.

The author was 5 years old when the "Revolutionary soldiers" swept through the streets and emptied the cities, strong-arming city-dwellers out of their homes, breaking families apart...

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